Four Steps to a Stop Motion Movie

This project is one that I have been envisioning and procrastinating about for a few years now.  It just seemed like such a cool idea to create this stop-motion video in which my work would seemingly paint itself in a matter of minutes. The amount of work that would take though seemed overwhelming, and thus the procrastination. As with any daunting task, I decided that If I was going to get it done, I needed to break it done into small manageable pieces.

The first step was all about preparation. I knew that this project would extend over several weeks and that I would need to be able to paint at any time during the day or night, so I needed to be able to control my lighting. In order to accomplish this, I designated one room in my house exclusively to this project and used heavy duty garbage bags and duct tape to cover the window and block out all light. I set up photography lights, an easel with a prepared canvas, and my camera on a tripod.

Once the preparation was complete, I could start the process of capturing the images.  After each stroke of the knife, I would take a picture.  I have a remote for my camera, which made it a little easier, but it was still a lot of walking back and forth in order to stay out of the shot myself. My first attempt did not turn out so well because I had my camera set to auto adjust, and so it kept changing the color balance and focus as I added paint to the canvas.  I ended up starting over with a completely new painting, this time setting the camera to manual mode, which worked much better.

After I captured the images, I could move on to step 3, building the actual movie.  Fortunately there is a lot of software out there that will allow you to do this. First I found a batch photo editing app that allowed me to crop all of my photos exactly the same so that I could crop the background out of the movie. I used an application called Smoovie to build the actual stop-motion.  I liked it because it allowed my to edit or remove individual photos from the movie and control the timing of each image.

The fourth stop wasn’t actually mine. Fortunately my son Miles is a singer/songwriter and offered to write a song to accompany my movie. The song that he wrote (ADD it up), is truly a wonderful song, and it was great to create this collaborative project with him. If you’d like to know more about Miles, you can check out his website

Pop-up Exhibit at the Golden Belt

This is going to be a busy art weekend for me! I am excited to be exhibiting my work at Golden Belt in Studio 130 for the Third Friday art event in November. Stop out to see my latest work, and all of the other wonderful art as the artists at Golden Belt open their studios to the public. 807 E Main St, Durham, NC
Also, the Durham Art Guild is hosting an exciting 11 hour Art-A-Thon in SunTrust Gallery! I will be setting up a temporary studio in the SunTrust gallery along with several other Durham Art Guild members.  Stop by and see us all in action.  We will also have several pieces all sized available for sale during this event.

10 Steps to a painting of Duke Forest

Every once in a while, I like to capture images of my paintings at different stages. It allows me to share my process with others, and at the same time it forces me to think about each step along the way.  In describing each step, I am forced to actually think about small details in my technique which, over time, have become instinctual. Here are 10 steps along the way in the creation of a painting of Duke Forest.

I find it very useful to toggle between works based on reference photos and those that are completely from memory/imagination. Many of my recent works are based on reference photos, including the piece documented here.  When I am working from a photo, my goal is never to create a replica of the photo. I want to capture the most important parts of the image, but also add an emotional element to the piece that is difficult to captured in a photo. Here is the reference photo that I used for this painting. I took this photo while hiking in Duke Forest here in Durham this Spring.

Above are three first steps for this painting.  You can see that I am focused on blocking in some of the light areas.  I don’t really try to match the colors from the photo, the goal is capture those areas with the lightest values. In the first image, I have blocked in some of the sky. In the second I have added some highlights to the path through the woods. Steps one and two where both completed with a brush. In the third image, you can see that I have started blocking in some of the light areas of foliage with a knife.

Now that a good portion of the light areas are blocked in, I start adding some of the shadow areas. I focus first on the darker areas of foliage with a deep teal color.  Next I add some depth by adding some areas in a slightly lighter value of the same color. In the 3rd image above, I have started added some of the deepest shadows as well as blocking in some of the tree trunks. Notice that I’m not following the reference photo exactly.  I am more concerned with creating a nice composition then with replicating the photo.

The changes from here on out seem a little more subtle. At this point in my work, I am trying to add a bit more detail, but not too much as I want the painting to be loose and spontaneous. I add a bit of yellow-orange to the lighter areas just to brighten it up. I am not concerned with the colors in the reference photos, just the value contrasts, so I am free to use what ever colors will create a vibrant energetic piece. I also added some even lighter values in the foliage to create highlights. In the 2nd image here, I have started to add some highlights to the tree trunks, and have started adding a little more definition to the path. In the 3rd image, I have added some texture to the sky and to pull some of the sky colors down into the trees. I have also used some of the same sky colors as highlights on the path.

At this point, I am just making a few minor adjustments.  I felt that too much of the sky was showing, so I added some more foliage, and called it done.  Even though the size of this piece is 11″ x 14″ I treated it as a quick study, only focusing on the most important features of the scene. I completed this in one morning – I’m using it as my ‘daily painting’ for today.

Painted Chair Auction

I have been working on painting a chair for an auction to benefit Independent Animal Rescue in Durham.  It’s for a good cause, and it’s been a fun project, and I thought that I could share with you some of the process in creating my chair.

Here’s what I started with. It needs a lot of work, but has definite potential. I found this chair at the Durham Rescue Mission Thrift Store.  I liked it because it seemed very sturdy and because it had some great painting surfaces. I also liked that it was upholstered, I paint in a very textural way, so I didn’t really want to paint on the seat as it might have been uncomfortable to sit on.

First things first, I removed the seat and set it aside to be re-upholstered later.  The chair is stained dark brown with a varnish finish. In order to create a good painting surface, I first need to sand off the layer of varnish. Some of the stain comes off too, but it wasn’t necessary to remove all of the stain as it would be easy to paint over. Removing the glue from the price tag took a little elbow grease.

I always start my paintings with an abstract under-painting, so on back of chair which would become my canvas, I started in the same way. Even the under-painting is done with a palette knife, so it is already a little textural. I plan to paint on both the front and the back of the chair. I painted the rest of the chair a satin black, similar to a picture frame.

back of chair
front of chair

Here’s the beginning of my first painting. The moon is a recurring feature in many of my compositions, so I wanted to include it. I chose to paint the beach, because it’s one of my favorite places in North Carolina.

With a painting of the moon reflecting on the ocean on the front of the chair, I decided to carry the moon theme over to the back. Being a midwest girl most of my life, I decided to go with a harvest moon. I re-upholstered the seat in a dark blue like the night sky in my paintings. Here’s a couple of pictures of the completed chair. I think I’ll call it simply “Full Moon”.

front of painted chair
back of painted chair

Independent Animal Rescue, (IAR) an all-volunteer, nonprofit animal rescue headquartered in Durham, announces its fourteenth annual Painted Chair & More Auction Saturday, July 30, 2016 from 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. at the Levin Jewish Community Center, 1937 W Cornwallis Road, Durham.

Tickets are $20 in advance at or $25 at the door. Contact IAR at to sponsor the event or donate items.

Blast from the Past

Recently, a friend from Minnesota sent me a photo of some of my older works that are hanging at the community hospital in Rochester. My painting style has changed significantly since then, but as I study this quadriptych, I see some similarities.

These paintings were purchased by Olmsted Community Hospital in 2010 as part of a local art initiate.

First, let’s talk about the differences. These pieces were painted with a brush, as this was long before I started painting with a palette knife. The brush strokes can be seen, but there is definitely a lack of texture. The colors, though similar are even brighter in these older works. Although I still use very vibrant hues, I believe that years of mixing my own paint colors has given me a much richer and more varied palette.

There are some elements of composition that are very similar between these works and my more recent landscapes. The alternating of dark and light values to create depth is something that I still do in my landscape paintings. The rolling hills in these paintings also look similar to some landscapes that I’ve painted recently.

I usually like to focus on the future, and not linger on the past, but it’s fun to look back once in a while at where I came from.  It highlights the fact that I am actually progressing. Like with all things in life, with my art, I can learn from the past. Take with me the good things, and leave the rest behind as lessons learned.

Why teaching makes me a better artist

I Started this painting as a demonstration during my workshop, and finished it up yesterday.  I also posted it on my daily painting website.

Another workshop has come and gone. I struggle sometimes to make time to teach these workshops, but I am always glad that I did because the best way to truly understand what you do is to teach it to someone else. Teaching these workshops also gives me the opportunity to be part of a community of artists who each have their own unique artistic style.

So much of what I do as an artist becomes intuitive. In the back of my mind I am thinking about balancing my composition, creating depth in my work by using different color values, or using broken color to create transitions from one color to the next. I know that I consider all of these things and more while I’m working, but have to articulate that to someone else allows me to get a better understanding of it myself.

Making art can be a very solitary task. Artists tend to hide away in their studios and hyper focus on their work. Sometimes this is necessary in order to actually get some work done, but art shouldn’t be created in a bubble. I love that everyone that attends my workshops has their own story, their own talents, and their own personality. I have just as much to learn from them as they have to learn from me.

Here are a few pictures from Saturday’s workshop.  It was a wonderful day and it was so great getting to know everyone. My next workshop is scheduled for April 16th

Name This Painting

I’ve Just finished this abstract floral and don’t have a title for it.  Sometimes naming my paintings can seem more difficult then painting them, so I decided to reach out to all of my friends to see what suggestions they might have.  If you have a suggestion for a name, please put it into a comment on this post.

This is a painting that I started as part of a demonstration at the Artigras Art Festival in Jupiter, FL.  The demonstration was supposed to be an hour, but I lost track of time and kept going for about an hour and half. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the demonstration though.

Help me choose a date for an April Workshop

My March Saturday workshop filled up fairly quickly, and I know that there were some folks who weren’t able to get in, so I am considering scheduling another one in April if there is enough interest. If you are interested in taking a workshop in April, please take the following survey to help me chose the best date.

Should I schedule a 'Playing with Knives' workshop in April?

Help choose a date for the workshop

Friday Night in Carrboro

I just recently hung a new exhibit at Weaver Street Realty in Carrboro, and I would like to invite you to the reception Friday March 11th during the 2nd Friday Artwalk.  I’ll be there between 6:00pm and 9:00pm.  The address is 116 E Main St, Carrboro, NC 27510. I hope to see you there.

Workshop Scheduled

I have had several requests for a painting workshop, and I have finally found time in my schedule to get one on the calendar. I really enjoy teaching these workshops, but it is often difficult to make the time. It is a one day Saturday work shop on March 19th from 9:30 – 3:30. I am limiting the workshop to 4 participants so that everyone can have an easel. Bring your own materials or if you are just getting started, you can purchase a starter kit from me.

These workshops are always a lot of fun. Everyone should get a lot of painting done, and probably make some new friends. For these all-day workshops, I ask participants to bring a bag lunch and we will break at around noon.  Hope to see you there!

Click here to purchase this workshop